I miss home. I miss the phone calls, the planning, the chitchat. I miss complaining about the June, July and August rain. I miss everything about my little house in London town. I would much rather be deciding whether to take an umbrella with me to watch the Beach Volleyball in Horse Guards Parade (I had Olympics tickets.) – than whether to have a PICC line inserted in my arm, or not. I know these are minor problems in the scheme of suffering and I promise I’m not saying this in a “feeling sorry for myself, woe is me, don’t you also feel sorry for me too” kind of way. I am just mentioning it once and and then moving on.
Your experience might be different if you’re having treatment in the same place you live – your friends, boyfriends, work colleagues all know what you’re going through since you’re there. Not only am I not doing in the city where I live, but not even in the same country. Most of my close friends know but I didn’t announce it on Facebook. What has made the distance bearable is that every friend, relative, acquaintance, nurse, doctor who does know has been stellar. One email/text message/facebook poke makes the day. They are all goods!
For six years, I have been unsure whether I should tell people that I have cancer. Is it vanity or privacy that keeps me silent? I think it is the fear of people giving me “the look”. They can’t help it….you tell them you have cancer and they see you in a coffin. I don’t want the “doe eyed, mouth turned down, hand on shoulder, ow, how can I help you, you poor thing” look. I want them to say – “that’s nice, what’s for dinner?”
I just want people to go back to how they treated before I told them. Everyone has fears about getting sick, no one wants to die and now I am shoving mortality in their faces.
Living with one kind of cancer, like I did, was a piece of cake. I was told that it wasn’t something I would die of, but like diabetes, controllable if you kept on top of it and would kill you if you didn’t. For six years, I lived with the inconvenience of having to see a few doctors every six months and a couple of scans thrown in for good measure. Now that I have two different cancers and one can kill you more quickly and I need chemo – it’s a completely different kettle of fish. I kinda had to tell people…or I disappear from London and told people I was “working from home this summer.”
How they individually dealt with the news was very interesting. There are some who call or email me every week, sending little presents, and continuing to ask how I am. There are some who never ask, just going on as if nothing is different. It’s all good. There is no wrong and no right. I love them all for doing exactly what they are doing. I so appreciate the little extras from people whom I didn’t expect if from but I also adore my friends even if they don’t call just because… I told them not to and they listened.
To be honest, I have been on both sides of that spectrum. One of my good friends died last year of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He would send out emails about his progress and I just couldn’t read them. I even asked if he would take me off the email chain letter. He knew that it didn’t mean that I loved him less or did not want him to do well – of course not. Another friend would send out notes about his father’s cancer and we became closer friends when I constantly responded to each one with a well-wishing reply. He told me that he was struck by how many of his close friends never even answered. Cancer is weird – we are all scared of it and fear makes us do funny things.
Since I am am here away from most of my friends, they have to travel great distances to see me. I love that they are making the journey but am terrified about what they will find. This is not normal fun-loving Suz lazing by the pool eating PA corn and tomatoes. No matter how many Louboutins I wear or how strong a face I put on.
My skin is ravaged by scars from the Bleomycin, the bags under my eyes could hold food shopping for a week and my hair..well let’s just say I am going to see the wig man this week. I’ve gained weight, I look and am tired and feel like I am going to vomit a lot. This is not just bog standard Suz but some alien Suz that popped in for the summer to visit.
That is not to say I don’t love it when I am with them but trying to act like normal Suz can be exhausting in itself. It’s that double-edged sword. Even though they might not care, I do. So what’s the answer – love them for who they are, let them visit because down deep no matter how bad you feel or scared you are about being the same, they love you for you no matter what Suz is showing.
2. THE BEAU
If any of you read my other blog, bestbitsworldwide.com, you know him as the Cypriot. He is the kindest man I have ever known and I miss him desperately when he is not here. He’s the kind who tells me I am beautiful even though I look as I described above. More importantly, he checks my mail, waters my plant, and does all those things I can’t do cus I’m not there. He finds humor in everything and always tell me I am going to be fine.
So he was coming and I was praying my hair would just stay on until he got here – which it did. As it was falling out in clumps during the visit, he helped me arrange it so the bald spots wouldn’t show – that is a true find. He understood that he was coming to visit me – it was not a vacation or holiday but to visit his girlfriend who was feeling poorly. He did just that and with great aplomb.
The daughter of one of my oldest friends once said that “…he is a good man”. Out of the mouths of babes…
My advice: Find one of these if you are looking for a partner. I recommend Match.com.
3. THE DIRTY BITS
Chaste kisses are about all you are allowed when on chemo. If you are to be intimate with your partner, no bodily fluids should be exchanged as you don’t want your chemo getting into his/her system. That means no sex without protection and no oral sex at all! My gynecologist made it clear that you should use non lubricated condoms with a lubricant such as Astroglide. The dry condoms are hard to find in the UK so you might have to get them online. Trojan and Durex make them. Astroglide you can find everywhere. This advice was helpful to me….but if you want to refrain that’s your business! They say you can lose your sex drive on the meds….so cuddle away. If you have no partner, make sure you hug everyone you see.